My husband and I took our two year old camping for his very first time over the weekend. We only went for one night and we only ventured about 30 minutes from our home; you know, just in case. I’m not really sure what I thought might happen. He’s a two year old boy and playing outside is pretty much his favorite thing to do. Ever. He’d live outside if you let him, which is sometimes very tempting when you know the tantrum that’s going to follow when he realizes it’s time to come inside. I think I was more concerned about the sleeping since he’s not what you’d call the best sleeper. As to be expected neither of us slept that great. Neither of us as in me and my son. My husband somehow made out ok 🙂
I grew up loving the great outdoors, as did my husband. Some of my greatest memories from my childhood are the camping trips we’d take with some of my parents’ best friends and their kids, who in turn became some of my best friends. The hiking, the hay rides, the horse rides, the s’mores making … there’s nothing quite like that. Of course we didn’t have cell phones or tablets back then (gasp!), so we were forced to use our imagination to have fun. We did play some board games here and there, but we mostly spent the days fishing or playing hide and seek or finding cool bugs or rock-hopping along the river. I truly feel like those moments helped shape me into the person I am today. It doesn’t take a lot to make me happy, I don’t feel like I’m going to die if I don’t have cell phone service, and I have a vivid imagination that’s always working on something. My husband’s pretty much the same way. We’ve both carried our love for the outdoors with us throughout our adult lives and we hope to instill that same love in our son. Let’s hope it works.
We have one child. We don’t judge other parenting techniques because we don’t know what we’re doing most days, although so far we seem to be doing okay. I think? But really, who are we to judge? I do think we’re both on the same page when it comes to the importance of showing our child that there’s more to life than television and video games and social media. Now don’t worry, I am not getting on a soapbox here. Sesame Street and Thomas the Train make quite a few appearances on our TV (okay let’s be honest, I’m using the word “few” very loosely). We’re also already debating whether or not we should purchase a cheap tablet for our son for our upcoming plane ride to Yellowstone this summer. Furthermore, my husband and I have various social media accounts between the two of us. So no, we don’t avoid all that stuff completely; everything in moderation, right? I have seen some kids (and adults) though that truly seem to be addicted. It seems as if they can’t go anywhere without constant entertainment. I don’t want to raise a kid like that.
I want to raise a kid with an imagination, and I want him to know how to use it. I want to raise a kid who doesn’t need instant gratification with every step that he takes. I want to raise a kid who knows how to communicate appropriately and look others in the eye. I want to raise a kid who doesn’t think he has to have the latest and greatest thing. I want to raise a kid who appreciates the beauty that surrounds him every single day; the beauty of the little things; the beauty of the things outside.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all TV watching, all video game playing, and all internet surfing leads to kids who can’t think for themselves. Can you imagine where us parents would be otherwise??? I’m talking extremes here. It’s when that stuff becomes all that kids know. I think it’s good to take it away from time to time, and not only when they’re being punished. I think it’s important to put a little focus elsewhere, on things that don’t involve screen time. I can only imagine that it must become harder the older that kids get, so I know we’re in for some trials. But I vow to try. I know camping isn’t for everyone, and maybe even the great outdoors in general isn’t for everyone. I get that. But there are countless other activities that can be done without the help of electronics – activities that could lead to a better appreciation of the little things in life. I even hear you can make a mean s’mores on the stove 🙂
So back to that camping trip we took this past weekend. It was awesome. It was amazing to see the bonding that occurred between my son and two other boys he barely knew – bonding over throwing rocks in the lake, playing trucks in the dirt, wrestling in the kids tent. It was great seeing the awe in his eyes when he realized he was sleeping outside with the stars. It was wonderful to see his excitement over eating by the fire. It was so fun to see his sheer delight over throwing sticks in the lake for our dog to fetch. It couldn’t have gone better. Well the sleeping could have gone better, but I’ll take it. Here’s to many more weekends of disconnecting.